Thursday, 22 April 2021

730 things — Day 42 of 365

 Our house is a comfortable size — it's not exactly enormous, but is by our standards big; the women in our household have generally lived in small houses. Because we are 4 adults (sometimes 5) living together, it has to be fairly spacious. 

A particular luxury we have is a second living room. On two occasions, once for about two months, once for two years, that second living room was re-purposed for a relative needing somewhere to live. Though we managed it okay, we decided we would rather not do that again unless absolutely necessary, because it stressed not only us but the individuals who came to live with us. We all breathed out in relief when we got our second living room back — the man in our house likes telly programmes about cars and sport, and enjoys terrifying dramas that require loud exciting music, and he always watches the news. He also feels the cold, and relishes the powerful warmth of the wood stove, with the (room) door open only a crack so he doesn't die from all that breathing out while the fire dragon is also breathing in oxygen.

The women, on the other hand, enjoy the pottery throw down and the sewing bee, The Great British Menu competition and that one where pastry chefs compete — and Zumbo's Just Desserts. We like watching programmes about air ambulance rescue and border force patrol and real life forensics, and The Repair Shop. 

Every evening we watch the quiz show Pointless followed by Richard Osman's House of games by the open fire (if it's cold) which is warm but not too hot, while in the adjacent room our male household member watches Wheeler Dealers and snooker and the news.

Our eating times also vary. Two of us work together as letter cutters in a stone masonry down the hill part of the week. One of us runs a literary agency and works from home. These days I am just alive and no longer work at anything; I've spent the last six months working on my health and am only unreliably and occasionally well enough to feel bored. There's a lot of pain.

So Tony eats breakfast at about eight o'clock and lunch sometime between twelve and two depending when he has conference calls etc to fit in, or if he's playing golf or meeting with his French conversation group — he has a very full life with a lot of people in it. Then he has just a light, simple supper around six or seven o'clock.

I eat at midday and four; one hot meal and one salad. Sometimes the first meal is earlier (elevenish or even half past ten) if I get hungry.

Hebe and Alice eat about midday and then at five when they get in from the masonry, and once a week they skip the midday meal to make a twenty-four-hour fast.

Besides that we eat different things, and are all rather specific about our food choices and the reasons for them. We each have our shelves in the fridge and freezer and pantry. 

Now, though our house is comfortably spacious, with two sitting rooms, our kitchen is surprisingly small. 

I suppose it's because it's an old house where things were differently imagined from modern use, let alone our particular household use. So we have commandeered two nooks in Alice's and Hebe's studio for the freezer and spring water filter (the bottles are iron oxide colour because it's a chalybeate spring), and for the pantry shelves — 

— and we use the cupboard under the stairs for our cooking pots and pans and mixing bowls (and some of us have extra pantry shelves there too). We hang our brooms and brush-and-dustpan on the wall in the entrance vestibule of the house.

We have very few electric kitchen gadgets (a water distiller, a hand-held electric whisk, a soup whizzer and a nut mill). We used to have a toaster but we no longer eat bread except on rare occasions. 

I should mention that our cat Miguel has the only cupboard in our kitchen apart from the one under the sink (plus a little drawer of his own) for his tins and pouches and Webbox and Dreamies and metacam for when he gets in a fight, and a stack of saucers. 

The wild creatures have a shelf by the back door (that's meal worms on the left) —

— and space for fish and mince in one of my freezer drawers.

And of course the cupboard under the sink is full of laundry things — the pegs, the laundry basket, the various stain removers and detergents and fabric conditioners.

Because space is limited and we all operate separately, we have to be very disciplined about what we have and where we keep it. So we keep everything constantly under review. Nobody in our house ever accumulates packets and jars at the back of a cupboard in case they come in handy one day. My own food all goes in one and a half freezer drawers ('half', because I have the one at the bottom over the motor), one and a half (Tony has the other half) fridge shelves, and I have these two pantry unit shelves.

Tony's shelf space has to breathe in a bit, too (oh, I missed out his tea bags and muesli shelf — you can just see his green teabag caddy on the bottom right).

Anyway, cooking gets simpler as you grow older, so we manage just fine.

Our cupboard under the stairs has these items in. 

The shelves on the left are Alice's and Hebe's and they also have some cupboards space in the kitchen for their herbs and spices etc. They have extra because they do more inventive baking.

I have the least space of anyone because I believe in practicing minimalism and I enjoy proving to myself that it can be done. And also I learned from raising a large family that if you make sure you are the person who has the least, it diminishes the occurrence of jealousy and paranoia about being left out or picked on — because it ensures none of the others has the least. In our house now I have the smallest bedroom, but for much of my adult life I haven't had my own bedroom at all, so it feels very special to live as I do now.

So you can see, in our house it matters that if we can identify anything to clear out, we do.

A couple of years ago I bought a large, heavy lidded frying pan. I thought it would be useful for starting off food by frying then building it up to a stew or curry; or it could be used for an omelette or stir fry. And it is good for all those things, but it's so heavy that the three of us who have the hyper-mobility issues find it hard to lift.

Also a few years back I got a chicken roaster. These are excellent. They roast a chicken (or any other joint of meat) to perfection. But cooking for just myself, I very rarely roast anything —and no one else in our house ever does; Alice and Hebe are by preference vegetarian (though they take a little bone broth for nutritional support) and Tony is more a fish or bacon and sausages man. I mostly either fry things together in a pan or make a one-pot casserole meal. I buy 100% pastured, organic, high-welfare meat by mail-order every few months, divide it into small portions and freeze it.

So even though they are really excellent and just the thing for their intended purpose, I have chosen to send on their way the heavy lidded pan and the chicken roaster.

They have gone to the charity shop — the one along the road from us that raises money to help people who are blind.


Julie B. said...

I really enjoyed reading and seeing how you keep so well organized in your home, with your number of folks, Ember. Just seeing those brooms hung up brought a new idea to me. Thank you for taking us along on your daily journey here. xo

Pen Wilcock said...

I love beautiful brooms! And I love peeking into other people's houses to see how they do things. There are loads of Youtube videos about days in the lives of Japanese housewives, and I enjoy them so much. xx

Sandra Ann said...

Always love it when you share corners if your home, your kitchen looks beautiful ❤️ San xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you — we do love our kitchen, though it is rather impractical. The drawers don't run well and it's all a little bit odd, but it was made for us by a rather feral man who lives in a caravan so it's the only one quite like it. And the colour Alice and Hebe have painted it remains me of an old lady I knew — Edith — a dear, remarkable person; looked like a fairy and dressed from head to foot in one colour (but a different colour for every day of the week). She believed in the healing power of colour. Drank her tea from china chosen to match her clothes, and painted all her furniture pea green.

Zillah said...

Your green cupboards made me gasp with admiration/delight/envy. The colour is stunning, and the simple arrangements of things inspiring.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you! In due course we are supposed to be painting the walls white where they are still grey from the cream-and-grey colours we had before, and the shelves over the sink will be green like the cupboards. Also the floor needs another coat of paint and varnish. We just haven't got round to it yet. Maybe this summer.